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The story of the food is the story of the people

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Deliberations and discussions continue at the 2nd Pacific Agribusiness Forum on food tourism, agritourism and agribusiness. Intensive sessions on 31 August 2016 explored examples in agritourism as well as the power of branding iconic products within the Vanuatu and Samoan contexts. Working group discussions paved the way for an actionable plan to be put together before the forum closes tomorrow afternoon.

Several trends kept raising their heads during the day but the one that seemed to be the most prevalent is the need for a multi-stakeholder and multi-sectoral approach to agritourism development in the Pacific.

A lively first session focused on the significant impact of the tourism industry on Pacific economies and the 35% of tourist expenditures spent on food. Other topics debated ranged from mature agritourism in Europe and the Caribbean to the ideas, practices, branding and safety standards that Pacific states can learn from: from the effectiveness of using film and TV to advocate for going back to traditional roots and going local, to establishing positive relationships with producers and other farmers. For chef Robert Oliver “the story of the food is the story of the people.” Similarly, Chris Cocker of the South Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO), states that “Food expresses our culture and heritage, and this connects tourists with our unique way of life.”

Over the course of the next two sessions, the Vanuatu delegation touched upon strengthening linkages between agriculture, tourism, food and health as well as the challenges still being faced by agribusinesses in the island nation, which was devastated by Cyclone Pam 18 months ago. The Samoan representatives, on the other hand, reflected on the Beautiful Samoa brand, agritourism opportunities in sight, and the stories of iconic products such as the Nonu juice that are exported in bulk to overseas markets such as Australia, New Zealand, the US, Japan, China and Korea. Sonja Hunter, CEO of the Samoa Travel Authority (STA), says “Almost half of the food and drinks consumed by tourists in Samoa are imported.” The same is true in the whole region: in Vanuatu, for example, 54% of all fresh produce bought by hotels are imported.

Participants were introduced to numerous innovative support programmes in the agribusiness sector that have been or are currently being developed. Cheryl Thomas of the Pacific Agricultural Policy Programme (PAPP) gave the participants a rundown of PAPP projects such as chef culinary training, farmers knowledge exchanges and value-chain training. COLEACP Policy Advisor, Morag Webb, talked about their successful e-learning platform in Africa which can also be used in the Pacific. Finally, Maria Ronna Luna Pastorizo-Sekiguchi showed how PIPSO's new website will assist in facilitating linkages between agribusinesses. "Technology has a role to play in supporting Pacific producers and processors in the agribusiness sector to easily connect and exchange valuable information with each other," she stated.

Tomorrow participants will look at financial solutions for agribusinesses. They will draft a document summarising the outcomes of the Forum together with an action plan to tackle the issues, solve problems, harness the potential and maximise the opportunities that have been put forward in this meeting.

Feiloa'i taeao [See you tomorrow]!

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